You always have a choice. To leave the safety of home and let the road decide where one would reach. Or to decide where one would reach beforehand and then leave home. There is a difference between these two. The first is reaching a (or any) destination by chance whereas the second is reaching the predetermined destination by choice. By chance or by choice. This is an option you always have. Be it love, education or career, this choice is available all the time. This article focuses on career choices.
Think of your colleagues, classmates or friends. There would be a handful of them who didn’t know what to do for a career while pursuing education. Yet they found a job, built a family and are happy today. But on close observation you would notice that happiness is not defined by what you have or possess, but by what you are. If you ask some of your ‘accidentally successful’ friends or colleagues, they would tell you about the emptiness and meaninglessness of taking some role they did not choose. In the long run, bitterness of not being able to follow one’s ‘call’ might come out. This is because a career-choice is like choosing a life-partner- it is a life-long choice, a serious one.
You would also find a few others who had very clear career goals but couldn’t reach them because of various reasons. Some of these reasons could be:
- Goals were too high above his/her personal capacity
- Late realization that the goal in mind was not the best for him/her
- Several attempts at the goal failed
- Personal or family constraints were too demanding
The first and second reasons could have been avoided if the person had taken stock of his/her capacities before setting career goals. The third and fourth reasons are genuinely unpredictable. Such reasons are natural and can truly divert one from his/her career direction. But ultimately, fulfilling his/her family responsibilities or choosing another fitting goal is also a good thing to do. It brings happiness and fulfillment.
So, what makes the difference? What are the criteria for a happy career? What is the difference between a happy person by choice and a happy person by chance?
- What is happiness for ‘You’?
First task here is to define happiness in life. For different people, happiness means different things. For some, it might be a high salary, cozy house and a hefty bank balance. For some it might be a joyful family, educated and happy children and daily laughter and bliss. For yet another group, it might be spiritual, metaphysical or super-ordinary joy and fulfillment. For some, it might be a mix of all or some of the above. How you judge your life’s success depends on how you define happiness. What is happiness for ‘you’?
- What is ‘your’ ideal career?
Moment of truth: there is no ideal career. Career is truly a subjective choice. It varies from person to person. Ultimately what you do should make you happy. There is no scientific method to determine your ideal career. But there are a few pointers that can help us identify a rough field/area. Some of the following ways work well before making the choice, some after the choice is made.
- An aptitude test
An aptitude test is a psychology based test that would test your likes, dislikes, choices and options in order to roughly identify what field of activity would best fit your personality type. Expert psychologists will be able to give you clear guidelines.
- Observe yourself at work (here are a few questions that can help)
- Are you happy at work?
- Do thoughts about work put you off even at home?
- If your work involves take-home work, is it a joyful experience?
- Does work feel excessively stressful?
- Do you feel proud to be what you are?
- Do you have grudges about your job?
- Is your pay satisfactory?
- Do you encourage others to follow your career path?
- Do you have the urge to leave your career area/job?
This last question has major implications. If you feel like leaving your career area, you must also have some other area in mind. Consider that area or ‘choice’ seriously. Study the practical possibilities of shifting from your current area to your ‘choice’ area. Make a viability study- financial, career-advance, relocation, etc. Or if this new area is a business venture, there are other considerations related to market and investment you must ponder on.
- What if you can’t change your ‘unhappy’ career?
An apt choice of career will save you a lot of time, money and health. But what if you don’t have a choice?
An old wise saying goes like this: “If you don’t have what you like, learn to like what you have.” This indeed is a wise advice that we can follow when we run out of choices. There is nothing wrong in doing this. Life must go on, even if you have no choice of careers you have solutions. If one must stick to the current career, one must. Life doesn’t offer us the luxury of too many choices at times. Sometimes, you might learn to ‘become’ happy with what you have. This involves finding positive aspects of your career, trying to improve its prospects by attending professional improvement programs, improving your qualification and quality of work, etc. Such steps will surely boost your self-image and help you feel happy about professional life.
Some people worry too much about their wrong choices and take to ill-habits like smoking, alcoholism and substance-abuse. Some develop anger issues and lead to catastrophes in personal and professional lives. The onset of such symptoms must be taken as cues and one must take adequate steps to happiness.
The Key to Happiness
The key to happiness is designed and defined by each person. Therefore, irrespective of the stage of life you are at, it is good to look at the happiness quotient in our professional lives. Life is a learning process which has no prescribed starting point and age limit. Childhood and retirement are good enough to begin to experiment with. Ultimately our goals must be happiness and satisfaction. And the key to happiness is a simple choice you make- not chance or luck. You just have to have the courage to make this choice.